Green River Star -

Our View: Dead trees should be harvested


While much of the west continues to burn, those of us living in Sweetwater County have been lucky to have only seen small-scale blazes and deal with smoke blowing through from those larger forest fires.

Yet, considering how dry conditions have been in the region as well as the continued reminders about high fire warnings on Interstate 80’s signs, we’re not out of the woods yet. While Sweetwater County is mostly populated by desert foliage, the possibility of fire remains present, but that possibility is much larger north of us.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest is a tinderbox that will ignite. Beetle-killed trees continue to stand in the forest, slowly drying and becoming more and more flammable with each passing season. A fire in the Bridger-Teton would affect us too. A wind blowing just right would bring that smoke south into our backyard, and with it the unattractive haze and respiratory problems some of our residents suffer.

Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson has repeatedly made remarks about opening beetle-killed trees to the logging industry and we support him in that thought as we think it would both create jobs and lessen the probably of a massive fire in the national forest. A 1984 study of recovering lumber beetle-killed trees from lodgepole pines in the northern Rocky Mountains, revealed it could be done and yielded results similar to live trees as long as the beetle-killed trees had died within three years. After four years, the lumber recovery started to decrease, resulting in less volume from those dead trees. Despite that reduced amount of lumber, it would be a valuable resource that would otherwise simply wait for the next lightning strike or ember to ignite.

We wouldn’t support taking those trees without saplings being placed within the forests, as we think simple clear cutting would leave the forests scarred and unattractive. We realize the forests, while being a natural resource, are also a place for locals and visitors to recreate. By planning the saplings in areas where those beetle-kill trees are taken, the forests would take less time to recover. Additionally, the saplings would provide something better to look at and be a stark contrast to the battle-kill trees currently standing.

With fire conditions the way they are, leaders with the National Forest Service should look at preventative measures in regards to forest fires. The fact that more than half the organization’s budget will be allocated to firefighting should galvanize it into seeking other solutions.

Bettle-killed trees are waiting to burn. Taking down the dead trees and replacing them with younger, live trees will do a lot in curbing the fire danger.


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